Following a tree change to Elands, Darren and Liane and family are relishing their new life, where they have developed an enterprise based on the production of eggs. And as they’ve discovered, both their children and their hens are thriving in the pristine environment.
Tell us a bit about yourselves; how did it all get started at IdleWilde Farm?
We moved from Newcastle to Elands in January 2007. Darren was previously a painter by trade, and Liane worked in various office positions. When the children arrived, we opted for the tree change, wanting to raise them away from the city and suburbs. We were quite unaware of the challenges that faced us.
Where is IdleWilde Farm located, and where does the name come from?
IdleWilde Farm is situated on the Bulga Plateau west of Elands on Tourist Drive 8, which takes in beautiful and diverse countryside and is home to the legendary Ellenborough Falls.
We can’t really take credit for the name IdleWilde. When we purchased the 115 acre property in 2003, we bought a topographical map which showed our land as being named IdleWilde. We loved the sound of it, so we retained the name … obviously, the irony being that running a farm is anything but idle.
It is all about the eggs from IdleWilde? How do your chickens live at the farm, and what is the secret to getting great eggs?
We first forayed into breeding Boer Goats; however, we soon realised the area was not suited to them, due to the high rainfall. Our second option was producing eggs.
Isa Browns are our bird of choice, producing a great egg that we are proud to put our name to. We received our first 400 hens in January 2011 and purchased another 800 in January 2012.
The first lot of hens lived in a mobile chook shed, which was essentially an old caravan which Darren converted and re-modelled to include 40 nesting boxes and their perches.
This was moved every 3 – 4 days, to help distribute the manure evenly on the land, which fell freely through the mesh floor.
We realised that our undulating to hilly land was going to render our mobile chook shed completely stationary, due to the high rainfall that the Bulga Plateau experiences (Bulga meaning water). So we had to reassess our housing for the 800 chooks arriving in January 2012. We decided on a stationary shed accessible from all sides, with 5 – 6 paddocks surrounding the shed. We then restricted the doors that are opened at one time and move the hens around the paddocks on a rotational basis.
The hens are free to roam, morning, noon and even night time, out of their housing into the paddock. We have never lost a bird to a fox or wild dog or eagle.
We credit that to our three beautiful Maremma sheep dogs, who are on guard around the clock.
Bred in Italy, Maremmas have been used to guard livestock from predators for thousands of years. It is their natural instinct to protect the stock they are put with. They started off guarding our goats and had no problem when we introduced hens to their family of animals to guard.
We believe we produce a great egg for a number of reasons, a few of which are the pristine environment the birds live in and the altitude of 650 m above sea level, grazing on clean green pastures and drinking rain or spring water in the fresh mountain air.
Our birds also have plenty of room to range. We follow free range and organic principles, but are not certified.
Eggs are collected daily and sold to local and further afield outlets/markets. The markets we attend are Port Foreshore, Laurieton, The Entrance and Speers Point, and we sell to a few retail outlets.
We also receive great feedback from our market customers. Our goal is to keep that standard, help others achieve it as well, and thereby help make a name and a tradition for the Elands, Bulga area as a source of good, clean, nutritional food that comes from a pristine environment.
How long have you been attending the Foreshore Market in Port Macquarie with your produce, and what do you enjoy about it?
We have been attending the Port Foreshore market since mid-year. It is a great venue for a market, and we hope to create a regular customer base there. It is an enjoyable morning by the seaside, and we hope to see you at the next market in October.
As a customer, you can expect complete transparency when you visit our stall, being able to look at many photos of our farm and animals. As such, we welcome visitors to the farm to see the condition our animals live in. Please contact us via our website www.idlewildefarm.com.au for details and to arrange a visitation time.
A family-owned and run property, what do you enjoy most about living in such a pristine environment?
Being a family owned and run farm, we love the fact that our work is at home, except on market days. Our children benefit from having both parents around and living in such a pristine environment. They attend the local school, which enrols only15 students.
And they wouldn’t live anywhere else, they tell us.
This story was published in issue 83 Port Macquarie